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What's a "Research Article," anyway?
When scientists and other scholars want to make the results of their work public, they usually begin by publishing them in a scholarly journal such as New England Journal of Medicine, or Journal of Cell Biology. A research article is considered a primary source, since the authors are reporting the results from their original study. The kind of study may vary (it could have been an experiment, survey, interview, etc.), but in all cases, raw data has been collected and analyzed by the authors, and conclusions are drawn from the results of that analysis
What's in a Research Article?
- Summary or Abstract
- Description of the research (Methods)
- Results they got (Results)
- Importance of results (Discussion / Conclusion)
Research articles are NOT good places to find:
- Basic summaries
- General introductions to a topic or background information
Research articles ARE good for:
- Finding most up to date research
- Authoritative information about older research
What's a "Review article," anyways?
A review article is a secondary source...it is written about other articles, and does not report original research of its own. Review articles are very important, as they draw upon the articles that they review to suggest new research directions, to strengthen support for existing theories and/or identify patterns among exising research studies. For student researchers, review articles provide a great overview of the exisiting literature on a topic. If you find a literature review that fits your topic, take a look at its references/works cited list for leads on other relevant articles and books!
Review Articles will teach you about:
- the main people working in a field
- recent major advances and discoveries
- significant gaps in the research
- current debates
- ideas of where research might go next
How do I find a Review article?
- Most databases and indexes, allow you to limit your search to include only review articles. Some databases might use the term "literature review," but it's the same thing. Set up your search like usual, then find the limit for review articles, select it, and run your search.
- Caution! Some medical journals will refer to reviews as seminars or literature searches (and they look like research articles but they are literature reviews).
- If you open up the database PubMed, you can search for review articles on the drug Paxil by putting “Paxil” in the search bar, then clicking the SEARCH button. Look at the list of filters on the left-hand side of the page of search results. Under “Article Type” you’ll see a link labeled “Review”.